To the editor:

Parents of elementary students in Salem’s public schools found remote learning in the spring to be largely ineffective. I don’t fault the teachers; it’s clear that many kids in the first few grades are simply unable to pay attention to a computer screen for long periods, and most parents are too busy working to be effective teacher surrogates.

The recent decision for Salem schools to once again be remote was frustrating on a number of levels. The city’s decision was based on the state’s recommendation due to rising COVID-19 cases in the city. We get that. But at the same time, in-person programs for children have operated successfully at the Salem YMCA and elsewhere since the pandemic began. Kids, including the youngest ones, wear masks all day and remain in small groups. There are clearly measures that can be taken to minimize risk, and there’s no reason to think they won’t work just as well this fall. Indeed, 70% of the state’s school districts will offer in-person education next month.

The risks of not providing in-person education to Salem’s youngest students are dire. Kids of wealthier children will continue to learn, while those of poor parents will fall farther behind. And signs of domestic abuse won’t be recognized and addressed by teachers.

Simply put, if the Salem Public Schools are unable to offer in-person education this fall, then the district must work with an outside organization — like the Y — that is willing to try. Our kids deserve it.

Don Seiffert

Salem

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